If Alison Wonderland can’t get you popping and locking (or twerking), then there’s little hope for you. A hectic wave of hard-hitting beats and addictive pop fillers, a Wonderland set is an expansive combination that knows no limit. The classically trained Sydney-sider steps far, far away from convention, choosing to incorporate a vast mix of soundscapes (the ultimate genre mutation).
Wonderland’s latest release Get Ready is oozing out of speakers at an alarming rate. Brazen rhythms reverberate your insides; dance is the only answer. I caught up with Alison to compare deep-seeded admirations for David Attenborough, her upcoming tour and favourite Beatles.
When did you first get into producing and mixing?
You know, it was a few years ago now. I kind of was DJing for myself because I loved it. I never really planned to become a DJ, so when I discovered it I would go to a lot of floor night sounds in Sydney and play some DJ sets around there and it was just for fun and because I loved it. I found it really interesting because if you don’t simplify it too much you can actually treat it like an instrument. That’s what kind of got me really into it. I just really liked learning how to work out different ways to mix- interesting ways – and mixing different genres. To me, that was really fun.
Have you always had a musical background?
Yeah, I actually was studying to become a cellist before the DJ thing. Somehow, this is where I ended up. I was in Europe studying cello and it was all pretty hardcore. I came back to Sydney and I think I realized that it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to be in classical music. That’s when all this started.
Do you still play the cello at all?
My chops aren’t what they used to be, but on the record there is a track with me playing cello. I am kind of excited about that.
Do you sing?
Yeah, I don’t consider myself a singer, but I do sing on all the songs that I wrote on the album. When I started writing this record, I had all of these instrumentals ready and I was sending it out to all these other female singers. In my head, this record was going to be my production and guest vocalist. Unfortunately, at the beginning stages, no one really wanted to sing on the songs, so I was like, ‘alright I wrote them, I might as well sing them with my lyrics and my melody.’ I made sure I wrote it in a range that my voice fit as well (laughs).
What’s the story behind the name ‘Alison Wonderland’?
It’s a bit of an awkward story. That name was chosen because I had 5 minutes to pick a name to get on a poster. In my head, I was like, ‘I’ll just use this for a bit until I decide on a proper name’ and low and behold here we are. Still my name.
You’ve really taken off; did you expect it to be such a whirlwind?
I actually had been working on this kind of stuff for a long time. For me in my head I don’t really feel like anything has happened quickly. I guess to everyone else it has. I’m still pinching myself because I can’t believe I’m here. Maybe the whirlwind is more that this was never my plan and here I am. In that way, it’s pretty mental.
I saw you at Splendour, I don’t think I’ve been so brilliantly thrashed around in my life. How does it feel standing up there and seeing all of that?
It was good. I was really nervous. I’m not usually nervous when I play, but I ended up doing “Get Ready” live with rapping over it. It was the first time I’ve been able to play original tracks. It’s not just somebody else’s song and you’re not just mixing stuff with other peoples music. It’s something that has come from hard work and blood, sweat and tears. You’re finally playing it out and you get a bit nervous. I almost didn’t really want to look up. I was scared. What if no one was moving and I had cleared that dance floor (laughs). But, not it went really well and I couldn’t stop smiling when I was up there. It was crazy.
We were definitely moving (laughs).
When I told my friend Jack that I was interviewing you, he went out and bought an Adidas t-shirt for you to sign.
Oh my god!! I’m wearing one right now (laughs)! Tell him that we are twins today. I tend to wear way too much of that brand. They gave me like a stupid amount of t-shirts, but I love Adidas and I can’t really say no. I’ve been wearing their clothes for so long and they finally sent me some stuff and I was like, ‘yes, this is my wardrobe now!’
Do you like it on tour or do you prefer recording?
You know, I like a bit of both, but I can go stir crazy either way. I think writing and making music is a cheap therapy session in a weird way, it is good because it does help you have a bit of a release. But, touring’s also good because you’re crazy jumping up and down and going off other people’s energy’s. The one thing when I’m on tour, I really miss my own bed and that’s hard.
That’s what I miss most when I’m away.
I know right? It’s like, ‘I don’t even know what my bed feels like anymore’.
Tell me about your music making process:
I’m not really sure. It’s a bit of a blur. Sometimes I write with myself, sometimes I write with other people. You’re either sitting there by yourself and you wake up, open your eyes eight hours later and there’s a song and you’re like, ‘ what the hell? When did that happen?’ Or like youre writing with someone and at the end of the day you’re sitting there like, ‘I can’t believe we just made this, how did we even make this? When did this happen?’ It’s a weird process. I think, for me, I just go into this really weird blur land.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Yeah, I like to be by myself actually. I just jump up and down. I get really quiet. That’s my ritual. And I have to be chewing green gum!
What do you do when you’re not making music?
Hang out with my dog.
What kind of dog do you have?
A small, cute, slightly overweight one. Don’t tell her that, I don’t want to give her an eating disorder.
If you could pick any artist, dead or alive, to play a show with, who would it be?
George Harrison. He’s my favourite Beatle and I just really love him so much. That means I would get to meet him.
Best live act you’ve ever seen?
David Attenborough. I went last year, I saw him speak not this tour, but the one before. Amazing!
I just saw him this year when he came!
How awesome was he? I just walked out of there feeling happy. Like the world was awesome. I love him. I wish he could read me bedtime stories or direct my life. Either or.
You’re about to head off on your ‘Get Ready’ tour, are you excited? Anyone cool joining you?
For my Melbourne and Sydney shows I have Willow Beats and LDRU supporting me. I’m sure everyone who is playing this tour is very cool. I pushed really hard to have Willow Beats and LDRU on those shows and so I am really excited about them.
Alison Wonderland – “Get Ready”